An Open Letter to Governor Brown and the Boards of California’s Higher Ed Systems

Refund Students, Not Wall Street

Years into a crisis caused by Wall Street, the One-Percent owes a tremendous debt to students. California has an opportunity in this year’s state budget to pay back this debt to the next generation of students. The corporate elite have more than made back their money, largely by winning tax breaks for themselves, leading to billions of dollars in cuts to education from pre-kindergarten through post-graduate education. As a result, tuition is up 300 percent, and for many, graduation now means unemployment and crushing student debt.

Taxes on the One-Percent headed to the ballot this November will provide up to $9 billion in new revenue this year alone — $2 billion more than Governor Brown has said is necessary to balance this year’s budget. The higher education community’s support for a tax measure will be immeasurably strengthened if Governor Brown and the Regents commit to support a “Higher Ed for the 99% Budget” that reverses tuition increases back to 2010 levels and guarantees no more hikes for the next four years. 

Unfortunately, the “compacts” on UC, CSU, and Community College funding that are being proposed could increase tuition by up to 15% over the next four years. Just as bad, these deals would turn funding for the systems into a blank check by removing nearly all oversight and safeguards, including:

  • Elimination of enrollment targets, ending the right established by Governor Brown’s father for all qualified California students to gain admission to higher education institutions.
  • Elimination of protections for outreach and retention programs for underrepresented students.
  • Unprecedented discretion for UC Regents and CSU Trustees — many of whom are tied to Wall Street — to use operating dollars in seeking loans for construction of legacy facilities.
  • Shifting responsibility for debt service payment on UC’s and CSU’s bonds from the state to UC and CSU. This will put debt payments in competition with already limited funds for core academic programs and could set UC on a path towards even greater tuition increases.
  • In addition, Governor Brown’s budget proposes to use $1.8 billion in new revenue from the tax measures to unnecessarily speed up California’s bond payments to the very same Wall Street banks that crashed our economy and buried our students in debt.

At a time when the public is demanding accountability for every tax dollar spent, we believe the lack of accountability will hurt, not help, for building broad public support to win the passage of a revenue initiative this November.

We call on the Governor and the executives of UC, CSU, and the Community Colleges to engage in an open and transparent process that puts refunding higher education at the center of the state’s budget. Additionally, we call on our state legislative leaders to reject the inclusion of a deal in the state budget arrived at without their participation and the participation of the various stakeholders. Finally, we call on our higher education systems and Sacramento alike to commit that the new revenue from the tax initiative go to stopping cuts to essential services, dignified retirement for low-wage workers, refunding education, and reversing tuition hikes. The systems of higher education in California must be held accountable for the use of those funds.

Making these commitments to the next generation will strengthen broad support for a revenue initiative this November.  This new revenue could in turn give a new chance to our young generations.


Richard Hopson, Board Chair, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
Alisa Messer, President, American Federation of Teachers 2121 — San Francisco City College
Willie Pelote, Assistant Director, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME)
Kathryn Lybarger, President, AFSCME 3299 — University of California
Bobby Arenas, President, Associated Students — San Francisco City College
Wendy Brown, Co-chair, Berkeley Faculty Association
Anthony Thigpen, Executive Director, California Calls
Lillian Taiz, President, California Faculty Association — California State University
Joshua Pechthalt, President, California Federation of Teachers
Alan Fisher, Executive Director, California Reinvestment Coalition
Dean Vogel, President, California Teachers Association
Andy Albright, Nominee for President of the Associated Students, CalServe — UC Berkeley
Pablo Rodriguez, Executive Director, Communities for a New California
Bob Meister, President, Council of UC Faculty Associations
Rick Jacobs, Founder and Chair, Courage Campaign
Rich Anderson, CSU Student-Workers Union — UAW 4123
Dolores Huerta, Founder, Dolores Huerta Foundation
Dennis Frisch, President, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges
Dean Murakami, Vice President, Faculty Association of California Community Colleges
Erik Green, President, Graduate Assembly — UC Santa Cruz
Van Jones, Co-Founder, Rebuild the Dream
Roxanne Sanchez, President, SEIU 1021
Honest Chung, Nominee for President of the Associated Students, Students for a Democratic University — UC Berkeley
Bob Samuels, President, UC-AFT – UC Lecturers and Librarians
Xiaoqing Cao, President, UC Postdoctoral Researchers Union — UAW 5810
Claudia Magaña, President, UC Student Association
Cheryl Deutsch, President, UC Student-Workers Union — UAW 2865
Tim Carlson, Norcal Regional Organizer, United Students Against Sweatshops — Santa Clara University
Marcos Perez, Socal Regional Organizer, United Students Against Sweatshops — Los Angeles Valley College
Jelger Kalmijn, President, University Professional and Technical Employees — CWA 9119 — University of California

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